Basics Of Surfing
Learn to ride the waves. Surfing is fun, challenging and healthy for the body and mind. Find out what gear you need, where to go and how to surf.
Surfing, like learning to ride a bicycle as a child, can seem impossible for a time, even a summer. But when you stick with it, get in shape and paddle out in some decent-sized waves, you’ll forget all the frustration and flow with the wave, which has traveled thousands of miles to carry you back to the beach.
First, you need to get geared up. The following are essential. Don’t feel like you have to buy it all, most surfers have lots of stuff around. Here’s what you definitely need: a board that’s waxed and a leash. If you’re near cold water, you’ll also need a wetsuit. For beginners, you don’t want too much board, but you definitely don’t want too small of a surfboard. Something from 6-feet, 3-inches up to 8 feet should do. A triple-fin board is best to learn. A single fin can offer incredible, big turns and high speed, but it’s not easy. Start out with three fins. They’ll help you learn to balance, control and steer the board without flopping into the face of the waves as much. The board needs to have a foam-rubber deck pad or wax for traction. A leash, a 6 to 8-foot chord, connects the surfer and the board. It attaches at the tail of the board and around your ankle with a Velcro strap.
The basic components of surfing are picking a spot, paddling out, duck-diving and getting up on the wave.
In picking a spot, a sandy beach is preferable to rocks or coral. Once you’re more advanced, you can handle the waves over jagged stuff. Until then, a sandy bottom is much more forgiving. While you don’t want a crowd, having some other surfers there is good for safety’s sake. It also tells you it’s a decent surf spot since someone is there. Don’t worry about locals and that stuff. Show respect for other surfers and the ocean and you’ll be fine.
Paddling out and duck diving are probably the hardest part of the whole sport. You’d better know how to swim and you’d better be in good shape. If you haven’t worked out in awhile, go jogging a couple times before you hit the water. After all, it is the ocean and it can be extremely powerful. Use the buddy system, too. You need to know what you’re doing out there and even if you do, you need someone who can get help if necessary. The bottom line is, you’re going to be swimming and when you’re taking a break from that, you’ll be holding your breath so you better be prepared. Surfing isn’t a beach blanket party where you just drift out and wait for waves. When the waves are a little bigger, they’re the most fun to ride. That’s also the hardest time to swim out there. It’s sort of nature’s way of weeding out those who aren’t worthy of riding her waves.
When paddling out, get some water on the waxed deck of the surfboard. You can even use some sand to rough it up if necessary. Hop on, stomach down and chin up to steer ahead and paddle. It’s a workout on the arms, but once you get a stroke going, you’ll be better prepared to shoot over oncoming waves.
When they break too close or are too big to paddle over, you’ll need to duck dive under waves. This is sort of like catching a punt while 11 angry special teams guys are rushing at you, but it’s the best way to get out beyond where the waves are breaking. To do the duck-dive, you use your momentum from paddling and grab the nose or front portion of your board with both hands while in the lying position. Push the nose right into the wave. Then, put one knee to the board and extend the other leg to weigh down the back. By doing this, you get under the curling wave and use some of its force to push you out the back. Granted, it’s going to rough you up pretty good, but who said you wouldn’t have to pay some dues? Don’t be frustrated if you lose your board or end up back on the beach. Duck-diving is a difficult task. But if you keep at it, you’ll find out how it works and you’ll be able to get through bigger and bigger waves.
When you make it out past the point where the waves are breaking, you can take a few breaths and gather yourself. Make sure you’re not drifting out. You could be in a riptide. If you are, paddle hard in a direction parallel to the beach.
Once you’re out there in the lineup, waiting for the waves with the other surfers, find a nice open spot. Don’t worry about clustering to a peak; it’s not worth the crowd.
After watching the waves, studying where they break and what direction they’re peeling, get into position. You want the nose of the board to face the beach. It’s important not to sit in the water like a duck decoy and wait for the wave. Paddle hard as it comes up behind you so you have some momentum when it reaches you. As it comes up, you’ll feel a rush of speed. This is the time to try and pop up to your feet. Push on the middle-front of the surfboard and swing your feet underneath you. You’ll fall at least a dozen times before you can stand up, using your hands and upper body for balance. Once you start getting the knack of standing, try to steer using your rear foot. Left foot back (goofy) or right-foot back, it doesn’t matter. Try both to see which works best. The rest is all about getting to the beach and doing it. Once you get a nice, long ride, you’ll be hooked.